75 years since the San Francisco general strike

sanfrancisco general strike

Looong article on the San Francisco general strike:

On May 9, 1934, San Francisco longshoremen went out on strike against West Coast ship owners, igniting a movement of 35,000 maritime workers of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) that shut down 2,000 miles of Pacific coastline from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California.

Driven by the determination and militancy of the rank and file, this 83-day struggle defied the employers’ Industrial Association of San Francisco, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s federal mediators, the conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL) union leadership, and culminated in the San Francisco general strike.

The San Francisco strike combined with two other momentous labor struggles in 1934 to alter the American political landscape—the Toledo Auto-Lite strike led by socialists in the American Workers Party, and the Minneapolis truck drivers strike led by Trotskyists in the Communist League of America. These three strikes—which were, in essence, rebellions not only against business interests but also against the business unionism of the AFL—paved the way for the pivotal victories of Detroit auto workers in sit-down strikes led by socialist-minded workers in 1937 and the formation of the mass industrial unions in the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations.)

World Socialist Worker: 75 years since the San Francisco general strike

(via Nick P)

American brain drain: college graduates moving to China

Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China’s surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.

“I’ve seen a surge of young people coming to work in China over the last few years,” said Jack Perkowski, founder of Asimco Technologies, one of the largest automotive parts companies in China.

New York Times: Shut Out at Home, Americans Go to China

(via Don)

The Netherlands Paradox – Capitalism and Socialism

I spent my initial months in Amsterdam under the impression that I was living in a quasi-socialistic system, built upon ideas that originated in the brains of Marx and Engels. This was one of the puzzling features of the Netherlands. It is and has long been a highly capitalistic country — the Dutch pioneered the multinational corporation and advanced the concept of shares of stock, and last year the country was the third-largest investor in U.S. businesses — and yet it has what I had been led to believe was a vast, socialistic welfare state. How can these polar-opposite value systems coexist? […]

The collaboration goes all the way to the top, where something called the Social Economic Council — consisting of trade-union, business and government representatives — advises the government on major issues. “It’s possible because our trade unions still play a prominent role,” said Alexander Rinnooy Kan, the chairman of the council. “In the U.S., the relationship between employers and unions is adversarial, but here we’ve learned there’s a joint interest in working together.”

There is another historical base to the Dutch social-welfare system, which curiously has been overlooked by American conservatives in their insistence on seeing such a system as a threat to their values. It is rooted in religion. “These were deeply religious people, who had a real commitment to looking after the poor,” Mak said of his ancestors. “They built orphanages and hospitals. The churches had a system of relief, which eventually was taken over by the state. So Americans should get over ‘socialism.’ This system developed not after Karl Marx, but after Martin Luther and Francis of Assisi.” […]

This points up something that seems to be overlooked when Americans dismiss European-style social-welfare systems: they are not necessarily state-run or state-financed. Rather, these societies have chosen to combine the various entities that play a role in social well-being — individuals, corporations, government, nongovernmental entities like unions and churches — in different ways, in an effort to balance individual freedom and overall social security.

New York Times: Going Dutch – How I Learned to Love the European Welfare State

(via Richard Metzger)

See also: Matthew Yglesias’s hoorah for the European welfare state.

Douglas Rushkoff on Richard Metzger’s Dangerous Minds

Turns out there’s already another Dangerous Minds episode. This one features Douglas Rushkoff and covers some familiar terroritory for readers of Rushkoff’s columns (which I link to frequently).

I agree with quite a lot of what Rushkoff has to say, and I respect him a lot. But there are a few important things he gets wrong or doesn’t account for.

There’s a contradiction in his assertion that the government/corporate complex will be too broke to enforce monopolies – but he also mentions, when questioned about US foreign debt, that we still have the strongest military. And that’s the thing. Entrenched powers aren’t going to roll over and die as long as they’ve got the bomb and the gun.

Alternative currencies are great. But governments tend squash them as soon as they start disrupting the status quo. See The New Currency War and George Monbiot’s history of alternative currency. There’s a really question of how much the “powers that be” will let “us” get away with – in terms of growing our own food, creating our own currency, and anything else that reduces their power over us.

Much of Rushkoff’s optimism stems from romanticizing a future where Americans break free from our cubicles and start actually “doing stuff.” I’ve noticed a tendency for a lot of people to think that jobs need to be more like what they think their ideal job should be like. Some people say “people need to be out doors” or “people need to work with their hands” or “people need more creative jobs.” They miss the fact that a lot of people genuinely like working with numbers, or programing computers, or doing detailing oriented office work.

Anyway, the millions of people who work in (or have recently worked in) the health care, education, restaurant, hotel, farming, gardening, manufacturing, trucking, rail road, utility, and construction industries may be surprised to hear that all the economy needs is for Americans just need to get off their fat cubicle dwelling asses and “do something.” What percentage of the population is actually employed in just pushing numbers around and managing outsourced labor?

I’m fairly confused on this point because Rushkoff also talks about how the financial industry is essentially extracting value from the rest of us. So are we producing value or not?

Rushkoff is correct in tracing the modern collusion of government and corporations back to the very beginnings of corporations, but he falls into a certain trap that libertarians tend to fall into: the idea that getting rid of the government influence would solve the problem of megacorporations (or other large institutions) would stop their meddling in the market and lead to a laissez faire utopia.

The problem is that the government is not the only way large institutions (be they for-profit corporations, religious institutions, unions, professional organizations, or non-profit organizations) manipulate the market. We could try splitting up megacorproations – but that requires government intervention and gets sticky quick (for all the reasons that libertarians warn against government intervention).

The typical libertarian assumption, as I understand it, is that without government intervention the market would quickly self-correct – all those decades of entrenched power and influence would cease to matter as real competition came to the fold. Needless to say, I don’t share this belief. And actually, I rather doubt Rushkoff does either.

I look forward to Rushkoff’s book. I suspect many of my points will at least be addressed.

Rest of the episode after the jump.

Wyatt Cenac on the Horrors of Socialism in Sweden

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis First 100 Days

Very interesting bit: the Swedish MP explains that Sweden has a trade surplus and lends money to the US (we, of course, have a massive trade deficit).

There is, of course, a contrarian view: that the trade deficit is not a bad thing. That it is, in fact, a good thing:

The Causes and Consequences of the U.S. Trade Deficit

Are Trade Deficits Really Bad News?

(a case that seems less and less reality-based every day)

Richard Metzger’s new show: Dangerous Minds, episode one

Since I’ve been a little soft of socialism lately, here are some thoughts on this episode: they talk a lot about the problems with capitalism and the need for more welfare to support the large numbers of people who will be unemployed long term as the economy continues to change.

However, they do not propose any real solutions (granted, this is just a short interview). The Welfare State needs a tax base to fund its social programs. Metzger mentions that he doesn’t see the market proposing any solutions to our problems. “The market” (a dubious term in its own right – what we should actual say is “private industry”) is perhaps the only thing proposing solutions – alternative energy, biotechnology, and other initiatives to increase actual, non-fictitious capital. Even solutions like permaculture, co-ops, credit unions, and alternative currency are “market” solutions, in that they are they are the private undertakings.

The good news is that McCain was, probably inadvertently, right when he said that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong.” We remain amongst the largest manufacturing countries in the world and one of the biggest exporters in the world. (Here’s an interesting article about the modern US manufacturing industry)

The bad news of course, we’re all familiar with: heavy debt both as a nation and as individuals, lack of individual savings, a serious trade deficit, etc. Some of these problems may have some governmental solutions. But redistribution of wealth require wealth to redistribute, and tariffs and trade regulation require commerce to regulate (whatever the advantages and disadvantages may be). This is what “the market” is good for.

Rest of the episode after the jump.

Christopher Hitchens: The Revenge of Karl Marx

As I write this, every newspaper informs me of frantic efforts by merchants to unload onto the consumer, at almost any price, the vast surplus of unsold commodities that have accumulated since the credit crisis began to take hold. The phrase crisis of over-production, which I learned so many long winters ago in “agitational” meetings, recurs to my mind. On other pages, I learn that the pride of American capitalism has seized up and begun to rust, and that automobiles may cease even to be made in Detroit as a consequence of insane speculation in worthless paper “derivatives.” Did I not once read somewhere about the bitter struggle between finance capital and industrial capital? The lines of jobless and hungry begin to lengthen, and what more potent image of those lines do we possess than that of the “reserve army” of the unemployed—capital’s finest weapon in beating down the minimum wage and increasing the hours of the working week? A disturbance in a remote corner of the world market leads to chaos and panic at the very center of the system (and these symptoms are given a multiplier effect when the pangs begin at the center itself), and John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, doughty champions of capitalism at The Economist, admit straightforwardly in their book on the advantages of globalization that Marx, “as a prophet of the ‘universal interdependence of nations,’ as he called globalization … can still seem startlingly relevant … His description of globalization remains as sharp today as it was 150 years ago.” The falling rate of profit, the tendency to monopoly … how wrong could that old reading-room attendant have been?

Atlantic: The Revenge of Karl Marx

(via Richard Metzger’s post Marx Was Right)

© 2023 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑